1. Building management tools. Microsoft isn’t known for providing management tools, says John Rymer, an analyst at Forrester Research. Right now it leaves that to partners like Amberpoint. “[Microsoft] has products that let you manage Microsoft servers,” says Rymer, “but I dare say that if you talked to the 10 IT shops that are using it, they would say it was for the development tools—not management.”
2. Supporting applications built on non-Microsoft platforms. Microsoft has promoted some open standards around XML and Web services, says Rick Sherlund, an analyst who covers the company for Goldman Sachs, but actually supporting applications built on non-Microsoft platforms isn’t something that the software giant has done. “I hear them say [Microsoft’s future enterprise environment] will be heterogeneous, and maybe there are things they can do to help people to bridge that environment,” says Sherlund, “but we haven’t seen the pieces of that.” One place to look for clues as to whether Microsoft is making progress working with cross-platform technology is in its Longhorn server, which is slated to be released by the end of 2007.
3. Preserving the unique features of services while integrating them. Companies will choose one software service over another based on features. Microsoft’s challenge will be developing technology to work as a common interface with these applications without eliminating some of the more specialized features, says Roger Kay, president of consultancy Endpoint Technologies. That will require Microsoft to develop technology that interacts with all sorts of file formats. And if it can’t deliver,” Why would you bother with it?” he asks.